Photo : Gideon Tsang
If you worry about your child’s attachment to their security blanket, you can probably relax. Look at what experts have to say about these transitional objects and why your child loves them.
While that piece of cloth may be known as “blankie” in your home, psychologists call it a transitional object because of the role it plays in a child’s development. Kids cling to blankets and teddy bears because they reduce stress.
On the whole, this is a common and positive ritual that’s easy to manage.
Facts About Transitional Objects
1. Be sensitive to your child’s stress levels. There’s a lot more than playtime and naps going on in the early years. Your children are laying the foundation to become independent adults.
2. Know that you’re a competent parent. Kids with great talents and loving parents drag around security blankets. Think of Linus, the character from the Peanuts cartoon. He’s a smart boy who quotes philosophy like a university professor and knows how to be a good friend to Charlie Brown.
3. Pass on family traditions. About half of all kids have a transitional object, but it’s even more likely if their parents had one. Store away your child’s old teddy bear for future reminiscing.
Letting Go of Transitional Objects
1. Let your child decide when they’re ready. Most kids automatically put their transitional object aside as they grow up. Ideally, this will occur before they start kindergarten to avoid potential teasing.
2. Save it for bedtime. You can help the process along by limiting the time your child spends with their favorite possession. Suggest using it only as a special bedtime treat.
3. Use two hands. Your child may want to hand you their blanket if they get excited about an activity requiring two hands. Get them engaged in popsicle stick crafts or tying their shoes.
4. Leave it at home. Gradually start leaving the toy or blanket at home for longer intervals. Reassure your child that it’s safe.
5. Switch to photos. Photos are a subtler way to carry around reminders of home. Slip a picture of the whole family into your child’s pocket.
6. Keep material objects in perspective. Your kids will follow your lead. If you value people and experiences more than possessions, they’re less likely to form excessive attachments.
Dealing with Other Common Issues
1. Keep it clean. A lot of bacteria can build up on an item that’s constantly exposed to saliva, skin, and kitchen floors. If your child resists handing it over on laundry day, let them help with the scrubbing.
2. Forget about sharing. It’s okay to let the transitional object be an exception to the usual rules about sharing. Having exclusive use of the item will keep your child calmer and reduce the spread of germs.
3. Double up. Having a look-alike blanket or toy comes in handy for accidental losses, as well as cleaning sessions. Cut the original blanket in half or buy two of the same items.
4. Prepare for demanding times. Just when you think a stuffed horse has gone to live on a shelf, your child may want it back beside them. Events like a divorce or a parent returning to work outside the home may call for extra consolation temporarily.
5. Distinguish between blankets and pacifiers. While teddy bears generally qualify for tolerance, many experts are less enthusiastic about pacifiers. If you’re concerned about ear infections and teeth alignment, talk with your doctor and dentist.
Keep the “blankie” or toy clean so it can comfort your child until they’re ready to let it go.
Transitional objects are a natural part of growing up.